Revolving Door keep spinning
Fours honours and still he forgets the rules. Some found it difficult to accept that Sir, Sir, Sir Lord O'Donnell has four honours (see previous blog). He is not the fisrt to excessively gonged. A witness to the PASC select committee elucidated.
Supplementary written evidence submitted by John Lidstone (HS 41)
In my evidence to you on Tuesday May 15th 2012 in response to question Q158 Chair: I replied 'If you take Gus O’Donnell who has just retired as Chief Secretary to the Cabinet and head of the Civil Service, he has four gongs'. My comments were picked up by the BBC and broadcast over the air.
I used the word 'gong' deliberately to mean "an honour, a medal or a decoration" to quote an Oxford Dictionary definition. The record books, 'Who's Who' and Debretts record Gus O'Donnell as having the following 'gongs'; GCB; KCB; CB; and a life peerage - four 'gongs'. This appears to follow a quite illogical tradition in respect of all heads of the Civil Service. To pluck two other names who have held these two offices, their 'gongs' are almost identical:
Robert Armstrong, formerly secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service. His 'gongs': GCB; KCB; CVO; Life peerage;
Robin Butler, also a former secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service: GCB; KCB; CVO; PC; Life peerage. I have excluded his KG, this being in the personal gift of the Monarch.
This brings me to the question put to the meeting of your Select Committee on Tuesday May 22nd 2012 when you took evidence from Sir Bob Kerslake. Q292 Paul Flynn: 'Sir Gus O'Donnell I think has four knighthoods'. Sir Bob Kerslake: ''he has not; he has two'. Paul Flynn: 'I have seen it in the papers he has four'. Sir Bob Kerslake: 'No, of course, he is a lord as well, which is quite a separate process'.
When these types of exchanges take place and can be heard and read by the general public, they do not inspire any confidence in those who are supposed to be professionally involved in the process of sorting who gets what and whether they balance the honours quotas book.
Remember Liam Donaldson’s warning that the flu pandemic could up 65,000 people in the UK? It didn’t. 450 died with swine flu fewer that 150 of swine flu. But the panic persuaded the Government to squander £1 billion – mostly on vaccines and anti-virals. No great surprise that Donaldson, a year after his retirement, took a job with lobbyists who are pushing pharmaceutical drugs. He was also handed the obligatory knighthood.
Commenting on Donaldson’s new job, Labour MP Paul Flynn told PRWeek: ‘This looks like another worrying example of the revolving door from independent public service to the world of commerce.’
‘There is widespread concern that former ministers, civil servants and generals swiftly metamorphose from high office into the paid servants of business, possibly after hawking around their contacts book and insider knowledge.'
Flynn, a longstanding scourge of the lobbying industry, added: ‘The greatest possible danger is that the holders of high office may be tempted to take decisions that could be influenced by the chance of retirement rewards. When crucial decisions are made, they should be judged on the public good and not on the possibility of a retirement hacienda in Spain.’
A recent report by campaign group Transparency International also criticised the so-called ‘revolving door’ between government and big business.
However, Walsh insisted that Donaldson would not be trading on his contacts developed in government.
He said: ‘Someone such as Sir Liam will tell us what works and what doesn’t. It’s a sounding board for strategy. It’s not about access. It’s about understanding the stakeholder environment and really looking at the client’s objective and making sure we help in achieving it.’
In a statement, Donaldson said: ‘I hope to be able to use my health experience to ensure that APCO continues to build its reputation for knowledge-based communication expertise in the health sector and beyond.’